4 ways to beat burnout
August 3, 2022
One can’t help but see post after post on LinkedIn about feeling the burn and I’m not talking Bernie Sanders. More and more employees, as well as students, are feeling burned out. And, in all honesty, why wouldn’t we all feel burned out. We have been tugged, pulled, and pushed for 30 months or over 900 days due to COVID. Then add in George Floyd, how could one not feel exhausted after watching the life literally be pushed out of him? And he was not the only one! There were the impeachment hearings, the election, hybrid work, which turned more into 24/7 work, and now there is Monkey Pox and if you get sick, some unspoken expectation has emerged that you just work from home. Finally, the heat - anyone who still denies our planet is heating up due to climate change, must be living 30 feet underground.
Of course, people are burned out!
So, how can we cool off, let ourselves relax, rejuvenate our minds and our bodies?
This may sound a little corny, but I do believe it begins with giving ourselves permission to take a step back and examine or reflect on our current situation. Once we can truly see what we are doing, what we have come to expect of ourselves and what others have come to expect of us over the past 900 days, only then can we take the first step in making substantive changes to squelch the burn!
Disengage During Non-Work Hours - While we all have “crunch periods,” you should not be expected to be ON every waking hour of the day. I highly recommend you disengage your work email from your personal phone. It is so easy to get into the habit of checking that email before dinner, after dinner, while having a drink with a friend, before bed, etc. This is not healthy. It prevents your brain from slowing down enough to relax.
Set Boundaries – Whether with your boss, your team or those who report to you, it is important communicate around when you are available and when you are not. This can be a bit trickier with a manager, especially one who expects you to be “on” 24/7. If that is the case, you might consider working with someone in HR to help you navigate those expectations. If you are the manager, then you have more flexibility to establish the ground rules for your team. Setting boundaries gives you the freedom to enjoy your time with family and friends.
Strive for Flexibility – When working from home, everyone should strive to be flexible, which means it should be okay to step away for 30 minutes to run to the pharmacy or drop off your car. The overarching goal should be completing the required work, not simply clocking in and out. Ask for this flexibility, and if you are the manager, then give it.
Sick Days Should be Sick Days - When you are not feeling well, give yourself permission to take a sick day – sleep, drink plenty of fluids, binge watch a TV show – I realize it may be hard to remember what one is supposed to do when they are sick, but we heal faster when we shut down and prioritize the healing process.
Until we practice taking care of ourselves, we will remain exhausted, impatient, and even grouchy. You should not expect others to take care of you, only you can do that. This means you need to be proactive by speaking with your manager or supervisor about finding a good balance between work and your life outside of work. Remember, work should be rewarding and challenging, and you should enjoy your job, but most of life happens outside of work!
Anne Converse Willkomm
Associate Dean, Graduate College
Associate Teaching Professor, Dept. of Communications, College of Arts & Sciences